Fairness is an idea that popped up a lot in my datingverse. On the road, Megan and I debated what was “fair” when it came to a first date. Does one owe a first date anything beyond guarded politeness? Is it okay to end a date “early” if you know you don’t see a lifetime with that person? Was it even fair for me to go on first dates if my goal was to be in constant forward motion, knowing that a second date was a long ways off?
There’s a sentiment you’ll see quite a lot in OkCupid’s You should message me if… section: You are not still in love with your ex. Men and women alike write a variation of this down with pretty calculable regularity, leaving me to believe that these men and women have dated a lot of people that were not over their ex.
But that seems sort of unfair.
Because here’s the thing: getting over someone can take a long time. And, though I can’t possibly know this, I can only imagine that in some cases, it takes a lifetime. Which leaves me to ask, when your heart is elsewhere, is it fair to date, or marry?
I know people who are not over their ex, and who are getting married.
I know people who are not over their ex, and who are on OkCupid, willing to be a partner to someone else.*
We sometimes wind up single due to circumstance, not emotion. And it’s a fine line to walk. Sure, our heart may be a year or three behind, but for the good of our future selves, our minds look forward and toward the infinite possibility that lies ahead. If looking back hasn’t gotten us what we wanted, we only can keep our eyes facing front.
Admittedly, that does seem unfair. Who really wants to date, or marry, someone whose heart is wrapped up elsewhere? Perhaps the older we get, the more normal this will seem – the idea that we are all entering relationships with residual love, sometimes to the depths of our bones.
If you still love her, even if you love me, is marrying me appropriate? (Let’s clear the case of untimely death off the table; I feel like widows and widowers tend to get a pass and that’s a whole different shebang) Clearly in some cases it has to be, like when that “her” isn’t available, has made it clear she’s not interested, or the like. But what if that “her” is a friend, or someone you’re in contact with, or someone who, after all this time, reached back out?
There’s part of me that thinks maybe this is where we accept other people’s feelings and imperfections with grace and humanity. I kind of like the idea of saying to someone, “I am so sorry your heart hurts. But I love you, and I am willing to cry with you, and I am willing to accept that you can love someone else and love me, too. I am willing to see you as a whole human being who is more than your relationship with me, and accept that person. Don’t hide. Be you.”
Is that a crazy notion?
I’m reminded of the This American Life episode, Break-Up, where Starlee Kine winds up writing a torch song for her ex (with the praise of Phil Collins, of course). In her song, one of the lyrics goes:
I love you, and you love her
And I kind of loved her, cuz I love everything you love
Which sort of backs up my point.
Of course, with singles putting it out there on OkCupid that they wouldn’t want to date you if you weren’t over someone, it becomes a feat of boldness to admit to how you feel if there’s a “her” in your mind. But to leave “her” out leads to perhaps never being really known if you’re on the dating market.
So, is it fair?
*Heck, the whole premise of 50/50 was about someone breaking up with me and me saying “I’m hurt, but I’m going to move forward, ready or not.”